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Jupiter High partners with Perry J. Cohen Foundation to make environmental legacy

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The community unites again to celebrate Perry Cohen’s passion for the environment through the renovation of the water retention pond into a wetlands’ habitat in front of Jupiter High School’s campus. Partnered with the Perry J. Cohen Foundation (PJCF), Jupiter High’s Environmental Research & Field Studies Academy (JERFSA) plan to introduce Florida native vegetation and architectural structures to promote environmental education as well as benefit students school wide and beyond.

Developed in 2006 by JERFSA’s lead teacher Phil Weinrich and his students, the Wetland Project was originally proposed as an opportunity to make Jupiter High a “green” school. However, the venture was put on hold due to lack of funding until 2015. Shortly after Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen’s disappearance in July 2015, Cohen’s stepfather, Nick Korniloff, approached Daniel Frank—Jupiter High’s former principal—looking to contribute to the school and honor his stepson.

“Frank immediately thought of the Wetland Project,” said Tammy DeLeonardo, head of Jupiter High’s choice programs, who expanded on the origins of the project.

Since jump-starting the endeavor, the Perry J. Cohen Wetlands Laboratory has attracted many high-profile donors, including Tommy Hilfiger and the Miami Dolphins. WGI assisted in the design of the project, the Radice company offered complimentary geo-technical services and U.S. Paverscape donated the floor for the classroom. World-renowned artist Shepard Fairey created the PJCF portrait logo and generously donated a mural to decorate a wall in front of the wetlands.

JERFSA plans to introduce plant material consistent in the five eco-zones of Florida, ranging from Coastal Upland Hammock to the Littoral Shelf, located just inside the shallow portion of the pond. Hardscape elements, including a bridge with stairs leading into the water and an ADA boardwalk near the deepest part of the pond, have been implemented into the pond’s design in order to provide a platform for students to access the water safely when taking water samples.

JERFSA’s role in the project extends beyond the use of the final product. Skyelar Kump, a member of JERFSA and a friend of Cohen said, “We should be helping with the building process of [the wetland as well as the installation of plant life].” But beyond the countless learning and research opportunities, JERFSA’s sophomore class uses the renovation as a way to stay connected to a fellow classmate and friend.

“Perry’s world revolved around the ocean and preserving the natural habitat…he was supposed to be in JERFSA with us at the beginning of his freshman year,” Kump continued.

Construction was originally planned to begin over the summer with the supervision of Jupiter’s community school principal, Suzanne Smith. The project’s phase one, “Outdoor Classroom,” construction went underway August 2017 with assistance from general contractor Yukon Construction and concrete supplier Supermix, who donated their services to the current phase of the project.

Members of the project plan to have completed the renovation by Perry’s would-be graduation date, June 2019, as tribute to him, and offer it to the public Florida-wide for extensive educational opportunities.

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Jupiter High partners with Perry J. Cohen Foundation to make environmental legacy